Violinist Amalia Hall returns to NZ for an eclectic mix of performances

by Elizabeth Kerr / 28 November, 2018
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Concertmaster: Amalia Hall.

Amalia Hall is back in the capital to take on Michael Norris’ whirling dervishes, among other things.

Violinist Amalia Hall is one of this country’s hottest young musicians. In her teens, she won every major classical music award in New Zealand, and she has since garnered several international competition prizes. Appointed concertmaster of Orchestra Wellington last year, Hall’s recent international engagements have taken her to England, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Germany and Italy.

After touring with the NZ Trio and returning to Uzbekistan to play all five of Mozart’s violin concertos in one show, she is in Auckland on November 29 as a guest soloist in a performance of Claire Cowan’s Stark, part of A Woman’s Place, a suffrage commemoration concert by the Auckland Philharmonia. Two days later, she’s back with Orchestra Wellington for New World, a performance that features the world premiere of New Zealand composer Michael Norris’ violin concerto Sama, as well as a Mozart overture and a celebration of Dvoák’s “New World Symphony”.

Concertmaster, chamber musician, concerto soloist – is that variety working for you?

In music and life, I’m hungry. I crave a bit of everything. Orchestra Wellington is perfect because it’s not full-time – I can fit in other things. It makes me really happy to work across different platforms and it helps my development – chamber music helps playing a concerto; being assertive enough to be a soloist helps with recitals and with teaching.

Do you have a favourite role?

I can never get enough chamber music. I’m the youngest of four children and played with my family quartet from the age of eight. It’s so rewarding to create something incredibly intimate together. The recent NZ Trio tour was called Twine and that’s a great image, musicians entwining themselves with the music to make a single strand.

You’re still in your twenties – what have been your major career turning points so far?

Post-grad study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia was one – that incredibly rich, inspiring environment changed my life. It’s a small institution; the 80 or so faculty are top musicians and you could have coaching from any of them. But graduating and leaving for the real world was also crucial – learning to trust my own judgment. Part of a musician’s growth is finding a balance between criticism and self-confidence.

What are the challenges of this new Norris concerto?

It has great depth of contrast with different atmospheres and soundscapes, from lyrical high passages to crazy virtuosic ones. “Sama” is a Sufi ceremony with dancers called whirling dervishes. The soloist creates that whirling. It’s very intense – I can’t wait to hear it with the full orchestra.

A Woman’s Place is at the Auckland Town Hall on November 29. New World is at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, on December 1.

This article was first published in the December 1, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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